Justice Minister Robert Pelikán from the ANO party of the center-left governing coalition has indicated that the cabinet is far from unanimous with regard to the government’s rejection of mandatory refugee quotas. In an interview for Lidové noviny, Mr. Pelikán ,who alone openly supported the quotas, said several other colleagues in the Czech cabinet who voted against mandatory quotas were not comfortable with the Czech government’s stand. He would not elaborate on who had voted against their conviction. Culture Minister Daniel Herman alone admitted he had doubts about the government’s stand. On Friday morning Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek indicated a possible softening of the Czech position ahead of a meeting of six foreign ministers in Prague, saying the Czech Republic did not want to block an EU agreement on migrants and hinting that a change of position could not be ruled out in future. However at Friday’s meeting of foreign ministers the Višegrad Four, of which the Czech Republic is a member, reiterated its strong opposition to mandatory migrant quotas.
Demonstrations against Islam and in support of migrants took place on Prague’s Wenceslas Square on Saturday afternoon with the two hostile camps counting several hundred people divided by a cordon of police officers. The anti-Islam camp called for the protection of European culture and identity while the group against xenophobia help up banners reading “Migration is not a crime” and “Refugees Are Welcome”. A motorcade of 350 bikers roared up the motorway at the top end of Wenceslas Square sporting the Czech flag, national symbols and signs with crossed mosques. Some 700 anti-Islam demonstrators then made their way to the seat of the government where they continued their protest under close police surveillance.
Finance minister and leader of the ANO party Andrej Babiš on Saturday visited the detention facility Bělá pod Bezdězem north of Prague which currently houses 530 migrants. After a tour of the facility Mr. Babis expressed himself in favour of speeding up the process of granting asylum to those who wanted to stay in the country and introducing something akin to the American Green Card. The ANO leader likewise stressed that Europe must do more to secure its borders and stop the uncontrolled influx of migrants. He said the Frontex agency had failed dismally in protecting the EU’s outer borders and noted that more finances were clearly needed to that effect.
Public fear of the possible spread of infectious diseases due to the ongoing wave of migrants from the east is unjustified, the Czech Health Ministry said in a statement on Saturday. A ministry official said health tests conducted at the country’s detention centers for migrants had only revealed ailments similar to those affecting the local population. Tests for tuberculosis, typhus and others proved negative, the ministry official said.
The Czech Republic which had to start importing electricity on Friday after the closure of the Temelín nuclear power plant says the country is once again self-sufficient after the brown coal-plant in Chvaletice was able to partly renew production. The Czech Republic exports electricity, but was forced to revert to imports for 15 hours on Friday after the second rector of the Temelín power plant was disconnected from the grid due to a fault in the non-nuclear part of the plant. The 2,000 megawat plant is the biggest source of electricity in the country and covers a fifth of overall consumption. The coal plant Chvaletice which was also closed for repairs produces 3,5 percent of overall consumption.
TOP 09 leader Karel Schwarzenberg has indicated he may not run for re-election as party chair at the party’s upcoming election conference in November. Mr. Schwarzenberg, who will turn 78 in December, told the daily Pravo that he was considering leaving the top post due to progressive loss of hearing which made it difficult for him to perform his duties as chairman. A party leader who can’t keep abreast in a debate is no good, he told the paper. However he said he would retain his seat in the lower house and hoped to help the party in election campaigns. Party deputy Miroslav Kalousek confirmed that should Karel Schwarzenberg not run for re-election, he would make a bid for the party top post.
The Decade of Roma Inclusion, an initiative of 12 European countries to improve the socio-economic status and social inclusion of the Romany minority across the region, managed to raise awareness of the plight of Romanies but failed to prevent their segregation, delegates of the respective states concluded at a closing conference in Sarajevo marking the end of the project. The initiative was launched in 2005, and was the first multinational project in Europe of this kind.
According to the Czech minister for human rights, Jiří Dienstbier the projects in individual countries suffered from a lack of finances, but the initiative was useful in that all participating countries developed action plans setting certain target goals and brought together experts in the field. The 12 countries that took part are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Spain, which all have significant Romani minorities.